060116palumbos8Chicken Francese served with a side salad and plenty of bread at Palumbo’s in Little Silver. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

060116palumbos5Alongside the tracks of the Little Silver train station in a handsome, stone-facade strip mall with plenty of parking, Palumbo’s Pizza is more than its name implies.

Inside the Ayers Lane restaurant, you’ll first hear quiet strains of Italian background music, setting a tranquil, family friendly atmosphere. The staff behind the counter converses in Italian too. PieHole takes this as a sign to join some other customers in the dining room and make lunch a more leisurely affair.
060116palumbos6 A variety of pies sold by the slice are ready at lunch time.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

The restaurant’s predecessor, Danny’s Pizza and Subs, an institution that went back nearly 40 years, closed abruptly in 2009, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of its employees. For the last six years, though, Aldo Palumbo, a Tinton Falls resident, has been at the helm, where he’ garnered a loyal following. It might in part be the updated decor, but with so many Italian restaurants on the Greater Red Bank Green, the food has to be a draw.

Ordering from a lunchtime specials menu, available seven days a week, we were faced with a few decisions.

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All menu items are priced at $8.95, but do we go with the wrap specials — with fillings such as chicken caesar, buffalo chicken or tuna — that come with a side of minestrone, pasta fagioli, chicken noodle, or lentil soup?

Just as intriguing, the specials menu offers entrees such as chicken parmigiana, chicken marsala, eggplant parmigiana and the one that appealed most, chicken francese.

Two egg-battered chicken paillards swimming in a pond of brightly acidic lemon sauce flecked with parsley and basil were served tender and tasty.

A side of romaine salad with garnishes of marinated red pepper strips, red onion, cucumber, Kalamata and green olives offered a perfect accompaniment to this lunch on a hot, almost-summer day.

An aroma of warm bread wafting from a basket placed on the table earlier became hard to ignore, and fulfilled its purpose at the end of the meal as a perfect vehicle to help scoop up the rest of the sauce.

Palumbo’s Pizza is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.